Celebrate 400 years of Shakespeare’s legacy in 2016

Eloise Wales, Content Manager, The Literary Platform

The 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birthday last year saw an explosion of tributes around the world, many of them interactive.

  • * The Open University’s short animated video outlined how Shakespeare contributed 2,000 words to the English language.
  • * The Folger Shakespeare Library offered online resources for students and educators, including the Folger Digital Text, a free digital library of Shakespeare’s plays.
  • * Then there was the Shakespearean Insulter, a website featuring a collection of insults from Shakespeare’s plays.

Next year commemorates 400 years since the death of the world-famous playwright and plans are already underway for a global celebration of his life and work. We take a look at some of the top digital projects celebrating Shakespeare’s legacy.

1. Shakespeare Lives – The British Council aims to reach over 500 million people worldwide through Shakespeare Lives, a major programme of events and activities celebrating Shakespeare’s life on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of his death in 2016.

The British Council and the GREAT Britain campaign are working with a host of British theatres, museums, educators and artists on brand new productions of Shakespeare’s plays, film adaptations, public readings and educational resources for schools and English language learners of all ages in the UK and around the world.

A major highlight will be All The World’s A Stage, a mass participation project that will invite people from all over the world to upload and share clips of themselves performing lines from Shakespeare plays. It will culminate in a record breaking, crowd-sourced performance and a new digital version of Shakespeare works.

2. Shakespeare Reworked, a Shakespeare Lives programme, is supporting the research and development of innovative projects, which respond to, reinterpret or are inspired by the works of Shakespeare in a global context. Projects include theatre; dance, live art or music and many will have a strong digital element.

One of the nine artists selected, Amanda Coogan a critically acclaimed visual and performance artist, is developing her project You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio. Nominated by Belfast Festival at Queen’s University, collaborating in South Africa.

You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio is a new multimedia collaboration with Deaf communities in Northern Ireland and South Africa. Using a combination of sign language, performance, digital sound and live Instagram streaming, this newly developed work will explore key themes in Shakespeare’s works and open up their accessibility for global audiences. Individual performers from both Northern Ireland and South Africa will engage with sections of different Shakespearean plays, which will be weaved together into a performance that empowers both participants and audiences to provide a fresh new look at Shakespeare’s works.

For more info on the selected artists, visit the webpage here.

3. Royal Shakespeare CompanyIn 2016, Shakespeare’s England will host a range of new exhibitions to celebrate the Bard’s legacy. These include a new immersive theatrical experience at the Royal Shakespeare Company; a reimagining of Shakespeare’s final home, New Place, by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; and Shakespeare’s school room will also open for the first time to the general public at King Edward VI School.

For more info, visit Royal Shakespeare Company page here.

4. SHAKESPEARE 400 – Underpinned by the research and expertise of London Shakespeare Centre at King’s and facilitated by King’s Cultural Institute, the Shakespeare400 season will run from April to September 2016. The season of events will include performances, exhibitions, educational and participatory events, which will emphasise the pivotal role of London in the public understanding of the works of Shakespeare.

Partners currently include Barbican, British Library, City of London Festival, Glyndebourne, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, National Theatre, Royal Opera House, Royal Society of Literature, Shakespeare’s Globe, Southbank Sinfonia and The National Archives.

More details on Shakespeare 400 available here.

5. The Hogarth Shakespeare – A major international publishing initiative across the Penguin Random House Group has kicked things off with Jeanette Winterson’s reinvention of The Winter’s Tale. Her novel, The Gap of Time, is the first in a series of 8 reimagined Shakespeare plays. The books will be true to the spirit of the original plays, while giving best-selling authors an exciting opportunity to do something new. During 2016, the official quartercentenary of Shakespeare’s death, three novels will be published as part of the initiative. Each novel will be published simultaneously across the English-speaking world in print, digital and audio formats.

Already, Winterson’s modern retelling has received rave reviews:

The Winter’s Tale, one of the late, “problem” plays, is a story about loss, remorse and forgiveness, and the nature of time. Winterson has captured all this with evident respect and affection for Shakespeare’s text, and made it new with her own bold and poetic prose and her insights into love and grief,” said Stephanie Merritt in The Guardian.

“There are passages here so concisely beautiful they give you goose-bumps, while some of the comic scenes are as excruciatingly unfunny as Shakespeare’s own, which one has to assume is a deliberate homage – fortunately there is plenty of Winterson’s characteristic sharp humour scattered elsewhere. Perhaps most surprising is how readily the plot translates to a modern context; how plausible this version seems, for all its knowing self-reference.”

More details on Hogarth Shakespeare’s project are available here.

6. BBC – To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, David Tennant will host a unique event, broadcast live from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon on Saturday, 23 April 2016 on BBC Two. Hosted by David Tennant, featuring a variety bill inspired by Shakespeare and performed by major international talent, it will celebrate Shakespeare’s enduring influence on all the performing art forms from opera to jazz, from ballet to musicals.

For more information visit the BBC’s website.

7. MyShakespeare – A data visualisation site, which shows global, Shakespeare-related social media by the hour, taken from Twitter, Flickr and eBay.

To find and share information specific to a date or to a Shakespearean play, you can use their data visualization tool, Banquo named after a character in Macbeth. The name draws parallels between the ways social media leaves a lasting impression of our comments, ideas, thoughts and activity that remain in cyberspace long after they initially existed.

All the data used on myShakespeare is user-generated content in the public domain collected from Twitter, Flickr and Ebay. The best way to see Banquo is on Google Chrome.

For more info, visit myShakespeare.

8. An Interactive Map of Shakespeare’s London – The Agas Map of Early Modern London and the accompanying digital texts, presents medieval documents in modern ways. Created by Janelle Jenstad, English professor at the University of Victoria, the map lets us navigate 16th century London in the way we navigate our cities today—through something like Google Maps, she explains on her video.

Jenstad has been exploring the Civitas Londinum base map since the late 1990s. The bird’s-eye view of London (also known as the “Agas” map) was first printed on woodblocks in 1561—right around the time of Shakespeare’s birth—then modified a century later. The intricate “Agas” map shows details such as monuments, institutions, businesses, marketplaces, and urban planning fixtures.

9. World Shakespeare Congress – The 2016 World Shakespeare Congress – four hundred years after the playwright’s death – will celebrate Shakespeare’s memory and the global cultural legacy of his works. Uniquely, ambitiously, fittingly, this quatercentenary World Congress will be based in not just one but two locations: in Shakespeare’s birthplace, and final resting-place, Stratford-upon-Avon; and in the city where he made his name and where his genius flourished—London. In both locations, the 2016 Congress will offer unequalled opportunities to engage with the current state of play in Shakespearean criticism, pedagogy, theatre history and performance studies, and to connect with Shakespeareans from across the globe. From 31 July to 6 August 2016.

Further info available here.

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